As Confucius (551-479 BCE) has returned to political favor in recent years, his image has become ubiquitous in mainland China and increasingly used abroad to symbolize Chinese culture. Represented in a great variety of media, both traditional and modern, depictions of the ancient teacher serve new purposes and address a much wider audience than ever before. Sometimes based on imagery from the dynastic era, when Confucius was meaningful to just the educated elite, his recent portrayals range from monumental public statues and paintings to movies, cartoons, and avant-garde installations. Using examples from contemporary Chinese visual culture, this talk will explore issues of patronage, source, reception, and significance in light of current cultural and political concerns.
Speaker: Julia K. Murray is Professor Emerita of Art History, East Asian Studies, and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin, and an Associate in Research at the Fairbank Center for China Studies at Harvard University. Before entering academe, she worked in curatorial positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Freer Gallery of Art, and the Harvard University Art Museums, She has taught courses on many aspects of the history of Chinese art, in a variety of media, from Neolithic times to the present, with particular emphasis on late-imperial pictorial art. Her numerous research fellowships include awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, National Endowment for the Humanities, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, and the Metropolitan Center for Research on Far Eastern Art. Her current research focuses on the visual and material culture associated with the veneration of Confucius, particularly his portraits and illustrations of his life. Her publications include Mirror of Morality: Chinese Narrative Illustration and Confucian Ideology (2007); Ma Hezhi and the Illustration of the Book of Odes (1993); Last of the Mandarins (1987); and A Decade of Discovery (1979); as well as numerous articles on Chinese pictorial art and narrative illustration. In 2010 she served as the guest-curator and catalogue co-author for the exhibition Confucius: His Life and Legacy in Art at the China Institute Gallery in New York, organized jointly with the Shandong Provincial Museum. The Chinese-language edition of Mirror of Morality was published in 2014 by Beijing’s Sanlian Press, under the title 道德镜鉴：中国叙述性图画与儒家意识形态 .